Saturday, November 11, 2006

"The effect on Texas and its citizens could be potentially devastating."


For years, toll highway will tie Texans' hands


Donna Council
San Antonio Express-News
Copyright 2006

As the controversy escalates regarding the Trans-Texas Corridor, I find alarming an Express-News article dated March 12, 2005. It is titled "State gets in fast lane to new toll road system" and subtitled "Go-ahead given for planning Trans-Texas Corridor segment."

It is the announcement of the signing of the first contract for this project, and it extols the "cutting-edge, bold and forward-looking" aspects of Rick Perry's plan.

Yet today, amid the discussions about farmland, foreign involvement and NAFTA, I hear little about the subject of one small paragraph near the end of this article. The paragraph reads, "Traffic levels on I-35 will help determine toll rates and limits on building competing public roads. A certain amount of congestion is needed to create a market for toll roads."

To ensure profitability, the contract can limit expansion of existing roads and/or the building of new roads well beyond the dimensions of the corridor. This would be most critical for I-35, but could also limit local efforts to improve road infrastructure and development extending for several miles either side of the corridor.

Potentially, this would create a recipe for disaster if too few drivers choose to avoid the tolls and continue to drive existing roads. Nearby municipalities could have their hands tied by this contract.

Also, considering the rising cost of transportation, the influx of and relocation of population, economic growth or downturn and environmental impacts, it is very difficult to predict transportation needs very far into the future.

Yet this contract will allow a private, for-profit venture, comprised in part by a foreign company, control over the road infrastructure for the next 50 years.

The citizens of Texas could, in their efforts to address local and regional transportation issues, be severely limited by a veto power provided by this long-term contract. The effect on Texas and its citizens could be potentially devastating.

As I approach 60, I realize that this control will continue until my 110th birthday. My 20-year-old granddaughter will be 70 years old at that time. It is difficult to understand how our government entities can value the concept of electing public officials for two six-year terms, yet hand over this kind of authority over the citizens of Texas for 50 years.

The legacy passed on by this very unwise decision is undeserved by future generations.

Donna Council of San Antonio is a recently retired part-time homeschool mom.

© 2006 San Antonio Express-News:


"If this is Gov. Rick Perry's 'legacy,' he will not be remembered with any fondness by the citizens of Texas."

Focus: Trans-Texas Corridor


San Antonio Express-News
Copyright 2006

What about farmers' fate?

Re: "To corridor foes, it's city vs. farm" (Nov. 5):

Rick Perry has yet to think of all the consequences of his Trans-Texas Corridor project and is certainly not thinking of the citizens this will affect.

Will he be there to watch the rancher and the farmer sign away their livelihood? Is he going to find cushy office jobs for these men and women who have known only cattle ranching and farming? Will he be there beside the mother when her son's grave has to be pulled from the ground because the cemetery he's buried in is in the path of the new toll road? Will Perry be there when small South Texas towns are ripped in two by pavement?

No! Perry won't be there, as will none of the supporters of this dreadful TTC project. Citizens of Texas must act now to stop this awful plan before Perry gets his way and life is forever ruined in our great state.

—Stephanie Crisp-Nickell, Artesia Wells

Plan is disliked statewide

Dick Gephardt missed the point in his comment "Public-private links can be beneficial" (Nov. 5). The Trans-Texas Corridor is not just a Republican issue that is "dividing us as partisans." To the contrary, it is disliked statewide in Texas. I am a Republican, and I think this is the biggest hustle ever brought to this state. I have friends who are Democrats, Libertarians and independents, and they feel as angered as I do about the TTC.

If this is Gov. Rick Perry's "legacy," he will not be remembered with any fondness by the citizens of Texas.

—Pat Pizzini

Farms, small towns are toast

How much is Dick Gephardt getting paid to endorse the Trans-Texas Corridor? Or could it be that he, like President Bush, buys into the "North American Union" plan to erase our borders with Mexico and Canada and become one country?

Proponents of the TTC paint a rosy picture but always fail to mention the 1 million people who will lose their homes and property to this NAFTA toll road. They always fail to mention the noise, pollution and environmental damage resulting from TTC.

Rick Perry makes a feeble comparison between TTC and Farm to Market roads. Farm to Market roads are usually two-lane roads, nowhere near the monster highway that TTC will be. How many people were displaced by Farm to Market roads? I'd like to see the comparison.

If the Trans-Texas Corridor was planned to run right through the middle of San Antonio, would the newspaper still print such glowing endorsements of TTC? I am still waiting for the Express-News to reveal the very negative side of TTC.

Why doesn't the newspaper interview those who stand to lose their homes, farms and ranches? Why doesn't it write about the many small towns and communities along Interstate 35 that will be obliterated by TTC?

Readers deserve to know the downside of Perry's dream toll road.

—Anna Mae Rooks, Natalia

© 2006 San Antonio Express-News:


Friday, November 10, 2006

Lobbyists threaten retribution to Reps who don't vote for Speaker Craddick

Democrat alleges impropriety in speaker's race

Nov. 10, 2006

Associated Press
Copyright 2006

AUSTIN - A state representative says lobbyists are pressuring lawmakers to support Republican House Speaker Tom Craddick for another term and threatening retribution if they don't.

Rep. Jessica Farrar, a Houston Democrat, has asked the Texas Ethics Commission to determine whether those actions violate a law that prevents people who want to be speaker from using bribery to win the post.

A spokesman for Craddick, who presides over the House, called the claims "completely false."

Every two years, the 150-member chamber selects a speaker to preside over the House. Historically, speakers are not forced out unless a new political party wins a majority of seats.

The GOP lost six seats in the chamber this year but still holds an 81-69 majority.

Craddick, R-Midland, has said he has enough pledges of support from lawmakers to seal another term.

But some Democrats - who often complain that Craddick's leadership style is too authoritarian - have speculated that their new numbers and support from enough unhappy Republicans could be enough to oust Craddick in favor of a more moderate Republican.

It takes at least 76 votes to elect a speaker. Craddick claims to have the support of 109 members, but those pledges are not binding.

In her letter seeking an opinion from the ethics commission, Farrar said lobbyists have called House lawmakers vowing that the speaker candidate will give sought-after assignments during the next session and will see to it that his loyalists have "the right support" in the next election cycle.

Farrar later identified the unnamed "speaker candidate" as Craddick.

Lawmakers also are being told "we won't forget it" and "we can make sure that you remember that you made a mistake," Farrar said.

Democratic Rep.-elect Eddie Lucio III, who won his first election to the House Tuesday, said he has pledged his support to Craddick and has not received such calls.

"But I'm not surprised. It's part of the politics in any speakers race," he said. "If you get on the bad side ... and don't prevail, there's going to be a little retaliation."

Farrar asked the commission if the comments are considered illegal legislative bribery.

"Do I have any duty to report this conduct to the appropriate authorities, including the district attorney with jurisdiction over these matters?" Farrar asked in her letter.

The ethics commission is not likely to issue an opinion until their next meeting, which is on Nov. 27.

Craddick is scheduled to speak to a closed-door meeting of House Republicans this weekend.

© 2006 The Associated Press:


Thursday, November 09, 2006

"If anything, the battle has just begun. "

Election losses aren't daunting toll-road foes


Patrick Driscoll
San Antonio Express-News
Copyright 2006

Did someone say something about a voter revolt to boot Gov. Rick Perry and all the other toll-road "bums" out of office?

Yes, loudly and often.

But the grass-roots uprising, fueled by 54 public hearings last summer on a controversial plan to build a supercorridor of toll lanes, railways and utility lines parallel to Interstate 35, couldn't muster enough firepower to spark a widespread revolution in Tuesday's election.

Still, toll-road opponents vow to keep fighting.

Less than half of the 28 candidates endorsed by toll critics won their races, and six of the victors are incumbents. None scored a win for a statewide office or congressional seat.

The biggest defeat was Carole Keeton Strayhorn's dismal showing in a race with four other candidates for governor, a critical loss because the governor wields veto power over state bills and appoints the Texas Transportation Commission.

Perry pulled 39 percent of the votes, twice as many as Strayhorn, which lets him keep pushing plans to build toll roads wherever feasible. He beat her by almost the same margin in the 81 counties where the quarter-mile wide corridor has been an issue, winning 38 percent.

Toll critics view the outcome differently.

They say Perry's failure to win a majority shows the strength of their issue, since his major opponents all opposed state toll-road plans.

"Gov. Perry has no mandate. He's weak," said Terri Hall of San Antonio Toll Party. "Sixty percent of Texans voted to throw him out."

If anything, the battle has just begun, Hall and others said.

Fundraisers are planned to stock war chests. More rallies will be held.

And toll critic groups are putting together an agenda that they intend to ask legislators, one by one, to support when they assemble in Austin in January. Expect demands for public votes on toll issues and adding protections for people faced with losing their land.

House members who don't get in line will be targeted in the 2008 elections.

"You vote for this (toll-road) stuff, it's radioactive, it's going to come back to haunt you," Hall promised.

Toll critics are counting on five House members who kept their jobs Tuesday, including David Leibowitz, a San Antonio Democrat. But they also have three new allies.

Republican newcomers Nathan Macias of Boerne and Tom Latham of Dallas, who didn't face Democrat challengers, easily won.

And Democrat Joe Farias slipped by Republican George Antuna to represent House District 118 in Bexar County, where Perry's corridor could end up.

"It's a big issue for me," Farias said. "I have yet to have a citizen, I'm talking about the average citizen, tell me that toll roads are OK."

Toll critics also have the ears of some of the very politicians they tried to oust.

Rep. Joaquín Castro, a Democrat representing a part of Northwest San Antonio where toll roads are planned, was hit hard by Toll Party members trying to get Republican Nelson Balido elected.

Castro glided to an easy victory. On Thursday, Hall called to congratulate him and see if he'll meet with her.

Castro, who's against a plan to add toll lanes to Bandera Road but is willing to talk to both sides, said he's going to take Hall up on her offer.

"I'm open to considering their options and I'll be waiting for that meeting," he said.

Toll critics will also probe for tender spots to exploit in the next round of elections.

They smell an opportunity with Rep. Mike Krusee, a Round Rock Republican who chairs the House Transportation Committee and shepherded in toll-road bills that Perry signed.

Under-funded Democrat Karen Felthauser got 45 percent of the votes to his 50 percent.

"Krusee cannot afford to run again in two years," said Sal Costello of Austin, founder of the Texas Toll Party, "in case someone with money steps in to take him out."

Express-News Database Editor Kelly Guckian contributed to this report.

© 2006 San Antonio Express-News:


Mutiny in the House? GOP Reps could replace Speaker Tom Craddick.

Craddick counting speakership votes


Gary Scharrer
San Antonio Express-News Austin Bureau
Copyright 2006

AUSTIN — Despite the jarring loss of five Republican House seats in Tuesday's election, Speaker Tom Craddick announced a day later that he has ample support to get re-elected to another term as speaker in January.

Democrats, however, said Craddick's pledges could peel off if another Republican emerges to challenge him and suggested ongoing discussions could make that happen.

Tension over the speaker's position also provoked a scuffle between two Democrats, according to sources.

The altercation occurred Wednesday morning as Rep. Tracy King, D-Batesville, allegedly shoved and pushed Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, during a closed-door meeting, sources said. King apparently was upset that Gallego and others threatened to recruit a primary opponent against him if he supported Craddick's re-election.

Rep. Robert Puente, D-San Antonio, helped pull King off of Gallego, sources said. Gallego and King apologized to each other after the scuffle. Neither returned phone calls for comment.

"Out of respect for my fellow members, it's not something that I want to discuss," Puente said.

Craddick, R-Midland, won the speaker's position in 2003 after Republicans dominated the 2002 elections, winning 88 of the 150 state House seats. But his party has lost seats ever since, and will have 81 in January.

"This is a very shifting landscape, and it's really too early to make any predictions," said Gallego, chairman of the House Mexican-American Caucus, of a speaker's race. "There's certainly a lot of energy and enthusiasm on the Democratic side, but we have to wait and see what percolates on the Republican side.

"There's some conversations going on right now," he said.

Democrats added to their seats Tuesday despite being outspent by $4 million, said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Jim Dunnam, D-Waco. While the heavy Republican losses may not imperil Craddick's leadership role, they almost certainly will make it harder for GOP leaders to pass school vouchers or other socially conservative issues.

"They will repackage (school vouchers) as something else," Dunnam said. "It's alive and well, and we'll continue to beat it every chance we get."

It takes 76 votes to win the top State House position — some Democrats said they might be better off politically with Craddick staying on as speaker.

"I'm torn, frankly. Tom Craddick has been single-handedly responsible for rebuilding the Democratic Party," Gallego said. "His leadership style is not ever going to change. As long as he's the leader, the Democrats will continue to pick up seats."

Republican lawmaker Pat Haggerty of El Paso said he's heard "mutterings" of a GOP challenge against Craddick.

"Is there dissatisfaction? Yeah," he said. "Most of the unrest comes from not letting the process work and being told how to vote, being told when to vote and being told that if you don't like this, then we'll just get somebody to replace you. Based on the outcome last night, that's a rather empty threat now."

Several potential Republican speaker alternatives to Craddick did not return phone calls.

Republicans can either elect a new speaker, Dunnam said, "or they're going to continue to be strong-armed by Craddick, and Democrats will pick up more seats in the next election."

"He does not allow any members of his own party or the other party to vote their district" Dunnam said. "He coerces them and strong-arms them into doing what he wants done."

Craddick spokeswoman Alexis DeLee said perceptions of a strong-armed Craddick ruling the House are wrong.

"Members vote in the best interests for themselves and their constituents 99 percent of the time," she said.

Craddick has 109 pledges of support for his re-election, she said, adding, "We don't have any reason to believe that those people are going to change their pledge."

© 2006 San Antonio Express-News:


Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Perry: Trans-Texas Corridor will go on as planned

Perry, Republicans Talk About Re-Election, Strategies

Nov 8, 2006

KXAN (Austin)
Copyright 2006

After his win, Gov. Perry talked to journalists Wednesday about his plans for Texas. He plans to keep the promises he's made.

The governor gave his day after speech at the Capitol and laid out his plans for the next four years.

First, when asked about not getting a majority of Texas votes and actually only getting about 40 percent of the votes, he said Texans showed voters showed they like the way he's leading the state and he'll stick to the top three priorities he touted in his campaign, which are school, jobs and border security.

Speaking of border security, he says he's getting more of the Hispanic vote because of his stance on keeping the border safe and keeping drug smugglers from crossing into Texas. He also talked about the Trans Texas Corridor and says the timeline for that will go on as planned. He also said there will be more transparency in the government which will allow you to see how your money is being spent.

"In the effort to require every state agency to start posting their expenditures on the Internet, my government will start posting the checkbooks online in the very near future," Perry said.

Now, when asked whether he plans to stay at the Capitol all four years or if he would consider a vice presidential nomination in 2008, Perry just said he has no plans to change his job, but God may have other plans for him.

KXAN political reporter Jenny Hoff met with sources very close to the Republican campaign and gained some secret strategies.

Now that the campaign is over, those close to the campaign answered some questions we've been asking all along.

First off, we asked about the controversial single debate between the gubernatorial candidates.

Strategists say debates are what won Jesse Ventura governorship in Minnesota because the other candidates spent the whole time bickering. That's why they wanted this structured and quick.

They also told us one of the biggest goals was to beef up Chris Bell as a true threat to Perry in order to bring Republicans to the polls. In fact, they told KXAN they fed Bell the question he asked Strayhorn which was about her initial support of the Trans Texas Corridor.

Next up was the campaign ads. Sources say they have slew of attack ads against Strayhorn they never used. Those ads were only to be brought out if she started getting a big percentage of the vote. They didn't attack Kinky at all because they didn't want to give him any credibility.

As for Bell, one of the biggest reasons they had to attack him was to get his name out so, again, Republicans would be spurred on to vote.

To get the Hispanic voters, they put out ads in Spanish and English in the valley. To get the 14 percent of African-Amercan vote, they engaged DJ's on so-called urban stations. In all, no rock was left unturned.

© 2006 WorldNow and KXAN:


"The results are in: A majority Texan's don't want Rick Perry as their governor."

Perry wins re-election by a negative landslide

Nov. 8, 2006

By Rick Casey
Houston Chronicle
Copyright 2006

Many years ago a columnist — I think it was Russell Baker of the New York Times — came up with an exquisite election reform.

He proposed that by each candidate's name we would have two levers.

This was in ancient times when we voted by pulling, not by touching.

One lever would be for that candidate. The other lever would be against.

You were permitted to pull only one lever in each contest, but you would get to pull it with more conviction.

A candidate might win by a total of minus 3.2 million to minus 3.5 million.

The winners would be the same. We would just have a better measure of their support.

No officeholders ever attempted to enact the suggestion into law (are you surprised?) but the governor's race this year gave us the closest approximation I've seen.

Rick Perry is still the governor, and he likes to say he is the governor of all the people.

But the results are in: A majority don't want him as their governor.

Not just a majority, but a percentage that would be described as a landslide if as many people had voted for him as voted against him.

Some Democrats are under the illusion that if Kinky Friedman and Carole Keeton Strayhorn had not run, Chris Bell might have won the election.

He wouldn't have, even if some wealthy trial lawyers had poured in a few million more bucks.

All those Kinky and Carole voters would not have voted for Bell.

Some would have voted against him by touching Perry on the screen.

Some would have voted against Perry by touching Bell on the screen.

And some would have stayed home.

And it would have looked like Perry won by a landslide, just like it did four years ago when he won with 58 percent of the vote.

The illusion might have put Perry on the short list of Republican vice presidential candidates in 2008.

But a red state governor who can't crack 40 percent? Not a chance.

If Gov. Perry was the winner who lost, Mayor Bill White was the non-candidate who won.

His Proposition G, opposed by conservative Republicans, passed easily.

As a measure of his popularity, it kept him on course for his own run for governor in four years.

Some of his supporters had urged him to run this time. They argued that Perry was weak and that White might never get as good an opportunity.

This was late last year, when Perry appeared even weaker than he does now, before he engineered school finance reform.

It was also when White was basking in the favorable publicity of his response to Katrina, before rising crime pointed up some of the costs.

But assuming he is able to keep a lid on crime, White will present something Democrats haven't had in a long while — a formidable candidate for governor with a story to tell and the money to tell it.

Longshot, but possible
The story will be of competence, social progressiveness and fiscal conservatism.

He will be a Democrat who passed his own revenue cap and, if very modestly, cut the city's tax rate.

He will be a mayor who ended pay-for-play at city hall.

He will tell of having worked with Republicans in Congress (even Tom DeLay) and on the nominally nonpartisan city council.

He may have a tougher opponent than Perry. U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison made a point of not promising to serve out her new six-year term.

But she may have to move to the right or face a tough challenge in the Republican primary.

No Texas mayor has won the governor's chair, but it has been happening in other states — from Maryland to Indiana to California — and there's no reason it can't happen here.

It's still a long shot, but 3 1/2 years ago it was hard to find a Houston political expert who thought White could win the mayor's race.

You can write to Rick Casey at P.O. Box 4260, Houston, TX 77210, or e-mail him at

© 2006 Houston Chronicle:


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

"Many seem to agree that Gov. Perry's 'vision' includes rows of trees adorned with hundred dollar bills."

Truth be Tolled

Locals learn some facts on Trans-Texas Corridor


Bonham Journal
Copyright 2006

With nearly 50 concerned citizens gathered, the supposedly hidden lies of the Trans-Texas Corridor were revealed. The lights went dark as the projector screen light up.

"What's wrong with this picture," asked one citizen at a public hearing held in June in San Antonio. "People would vote to raise taxes if they wanted a tollway," added Democratic candidate David Van Os. Feelings were mutual between those shown in the film. Toll ways are not the answer.

The Trans-Texas Corridor is a proposed superhighway that will include tollways for passenger vehicles and trucks, bullet trains, commuter trains, high-speed freight trains, pipelines of all types and electrical transmission towers. The tollways will also include economic development with gas stations, hotels, stores, parking facilities and toll booths. The proposed TTC-35 is 600 miles long extending from north of Dallas/Ft Worth to Mexico and parallels I-35.

Texas Mobility Fund, TxDOT irresponsible spending and corruption in Texas politics were unveiled in the film produced by William Malina. Human emotions were captured in the film as citizens rose to speak at public hearings throughout the past two years. Terri Hall, regional director of the San Antonio Toll Party explains how the toll roads would be a double taxation on Texas residents. Texans will pay their tax dollars which funds TxDOT improvements to existing roads and will then again pay toll costs to travel on Texas highways. The average Texas family pays between $2,000 and $4,000 per year in toll costs. "It's a money grabber," says Hall.

The toll roads will be under control of foreign investors, which more than frustrates Texans.

The first tollway approved under foreign investment was Camino Colombia, Highway 255 which was approved by TxDOT. The cost to build the road totaled $90 million. Three years after the foreclosure of the toll way, it was auctioned off for $12 million, explains Hall.

There is not simply one issue that Texans are unhappy with. The fact that foreign investors will have control, the fact that an election for such toll ways is not part of the process, eminent domain laws and the fact that politicians are not working for the people. Texans attend public meetings to voice their opinions, but they still feel that their opinions and suggestions do not matter.

City of Leon Valley near San Antonio fought an elevated toll way on their local Bandero Road. Officials with the Alamo Mobility Regional Authority suggested the tollway to residents and city officials. After hearing other suggestions from area residents, the Alamo MRA refused to reconsider a tollway. After an abstain vote from council members, fellow City of Helotes voted against the tollway. Shortly following their decision, the City of Leon Valley passed a resolution opposed to the toll way.

The film also captures the American farmers whose lands are at risk of being taken away through the process of eminent domain. As the blackland prairies of Texas are at risk of being turned into concrete, the farming lands that are so rich and abundant in Texas will be no more. "No vote, no road," says one citizen at a TxDOT public hearing in Floresville in August 2006.

Governor Rick Perry sees the toll roads as a "vision." Many seem to agree that that vision includes rows of trees adorned with hundred dollar bills.

© 2006 The Bonham Journal:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE


Monday, November 06, 2006

George W. Bush: "Everything I learned, I learned here in Texas.''

Gubernatorial candidates scramble for votes in final hours

Nov. 6, 2006

Houston Chronicle
Copyright 2006

The four major candidates for Texas governor made their final pitches to the voters today, with Gov. Rick Perry getting a personal boost from President Bush and independent Carole Keeton Strayhorn blitzing the state with Bush's former press secretary and the president's former Medicare chief.

Democrat Chris Bell campaigned in Amarillo, Dallas and Austin before returning to his home in Houston, where he will vote today ) and await election returns.

Independent Kinky Friedman rallied in Temple.

In his last event of the campaign season, Bush touched down in Dallas for a rally with Perry, telling an estimated 10,000 people at Reunion Arena that ``You elected us to get things done.''

``Let me put it to you this way,'' Bush told the cheering crowd. ``Everything I learned, I learned here in Texas.''

Joined by local Republican officials and statewide officeholders, including Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, Bush said, ``When you get in there to vote for Rick, make sure you vote for Dewhurst as well.''

Strayhorn held airport news conferences in Harlingen, San Antonio, Houston and Dallas with her four sons, including Scott McClellan, the former White House press secretary, and Mark McClellan, who, until recently, was Bush's administrator of the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services.

"A couple of his (Bush's) senior advisors think there's a better candidate for governor,'' Mark McClellan said.

Scott McClellan likened Strayhorn's style to the "uniter, not a divider'' theme that Bush used in his first presidential race.

``We think that spirit is what this campaign is all about - setting aside partisan politics and doing what's best for Texas,'' he said.

Also touring with Strayhorn were Brad McClellan, her campaign manager, and his twin brother, Dudley. Strayhorn's sons have campaigned with her throughout her political career, beginning in 1972 when she ran for the Austin school board.

At the various stops, the comptroller also was joined by Democratic and Republican officeholders to emphasize her cross-party message.

"We are going to prove the pundits wrong,'' she said of recent media-sponsored polls indicating she will finish third as Perry is reelected.

Bell and Friedman made similar comments about the voter surveys.

Bell urged Democrats who have been flirting with Strayhorn or Friedman to come home to their party.

He acknowledged the difficulty of a Democrat regaining the governor's office after 12 years, but he said there's also an advantage in running against ``one of the least popular governors in the history of Texas.''

"I'm the only one now in a position to take him out,'' he added.

In Dallas, where Bell was born, he campaigned with his father, Peter Bell, 83, a former Republican.

"If they (voters) just get to know him, he's a beautiful man,'' the elder Bell said of his son.

Friedman rallied about 100 voters in Temple at the office of Tejano star Little Joe Hernandez. He said he will be joined on election night by former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, the former wrestler who rode a wave of voter turnout to an upset victory as a Reform Party candidate in 1998.

"I think we're going to surge a lot stronger than the pollsters and the politicians and the pundits have predicted,'' said Friedman, for whom recent polls have predicted a fourth place finish with about 11 percent of the vote.

As Friedman was talking about the ``very strange coalition'' supporting him, about 20 uniformed students from Holy Trinity, an area Catholic school, showed up.

The candidate vying to be the first Jewish governor of Texas gave the students a history lesson about one of his heroes, Father Damien, a Belgian Catholic missionary who ministered to lepers in Hawaii during the late 1800s.

President Bush raised a record $194 million for Republican candidates this year, but his diminished popularity nationally has limited his value in tightly contested races.

Instead, the president has stuck to largely conservative areas where his handlers believed he could make a positive difference. In two other stops today, Bush addressed rallies in Arkansas and Florida.

Today, the president and first lady vote at their local polling place in Crawford before heading back to Washington, where they plan to watch the election results at the White House.

Slightly more than 1 million people voted early in person or by mail in the 15 most populous counties, a slight increase over the 2002 gubernatorial election.

The number of early voters increased in several suburban, Republican-dominated counties, including Fort Bend and Montgomery (outside Houston), Williamson (outside Austin) and Collin and Denton (in the Metroplex), while early voting in Travis and Hidalgo counties, two Democratic strongholds, was down.

Secretary of State Roger Williams has predicted that 36 percent of the state's 3 million-plus registered voters will cast ballots, the same percentage as voted in 2002.

Austin Bureau reporters Janet Elliott and Lisa Falkenberg contributed to this story.

© 2006 Houston Chronicle:


"We are taxpayers. They don’t think they are accountable to anyone.”

Toll roads: more money, less traffic?

November 06, 2006

by Peter Cawthon IV
The Paisano

Students may have to dig into their pockets in the future is they want to get to class more quickly.

The city plans to build toll roads on highways 281, Loop 1604 and perhaps on Bandera road.

The Young Conservatives of Texas (YCT) brought the toll road issue to UTSA by asking Dave Ramos, San Antonio Toll Party head of communications, to speak on campus.

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) believes that over the next 25 years, the department will incur an $8.4 billion deficit. Currently, there is a $.20 per gallon state tax on gasoline, intended to pay for maintenance of existing roads and the construction of new roads; TxDOT argues this is not nearly enough.

The San Antonio Toll Party, whose web site states they are a “Taxpayer revolt like the Boston Tea Party,” is a grassroots organization against the building or use of toll roads in San Antonio. They feel that in using toll roads, the government is taxing the people twice over.

Ramos began by showing a photo of a four-lane toll road within an eight-lane freeway in California. On the roads that were not tolled, traffic was bumper to bumper. On the tolled lanes, however, significantly fewer vehicles traveled quickly and unencumbered. According to Ramos, many Californians cannot afford to pay the $.89 per mile toll.

Of the money currently collected through the gas tax in Texas, Ramos states the majority is not used on roads. He claims that some of the money goes towards paying for Christmas trees in government buildings and for private parking lots.

“There are billions being diverted,” Ramos said. “How can you say there is a funding crisis?”

Ramos believes the fault lies within TxDOT itself.

“TxDOT claims it does not have money to maintain new roads,” Ramos said. “It is a bad assumption that they are working efficiently.”

Ramos also produced copies of an on-line survey posted by TxDOT showing various costs for tolling roads and correlating expected driving times between two locales, in this case between Randolph Air force Base and the UTSA area. According to the survey, a one-way trip would cost $5.90 with a travel time of 28 minutes, compared to using a toll-free road with a travel time of 44 minutes.

TxDOT claimed the costs stated on the survey were what they thought the market could bear.

The Texas Toll Party believes that the deficit problem could be fixed by increasing the gas tax by two to three cents.

Clay Smith, director of Transportation Planning and Development in the San Antonio District, believes the two-cent increase is grossly underestimated.

He feels the gas tax increase should be closer to $.75 to cover the costs; but even then, he dislikes the idea.

“Only those who use the toll roads will have to pay,” Smith said. “Gas tax affects everyone. We don’t think that’s fair.”

Smith agrees with the San Antonio Toll Party that the current tax is diverted many ways; some goes towards parks and some towards public schools.

The current system, Smith said, allows TxDOT to receive the money incrementally and thus travels can only afford to pay as we go. He cited the 20 years of construction on Loop 410 as an example.

Smith mentioned that the only roads to be tolled are new roads; existing roads will remain as they are.

“I’ve heard Ramos say it will cost you $2,000 to $3,000 a year to use toll roads,” Smith said. “It doesn’t have to cost you a thing.”

Congestion, Smith claims, is the real issue.

Students, at times, wake up late and have to rush to class. This is where Smith believes the tolled roads will be beneficial to the UTSA students.

“If you’re trying to take a test and are late,” Smith said, “maybe the toll road would be worth it.”

Smith estimates the cost of traveling from 281 and 1604 to the UTSA campus would be approximately $1.50 at $.15 cents per mile. He does not expect student discounts to be offered.

Smith thinks businesses will determine how to make toll roads work for them.

“They will find the most economic way,” Smith said. “They will find the fastest way.”

The San Antonio Toll Party thinks that the cost of the tolls and the difficulty of getting products to retail stores will drive up prices.

Terri Hall, director for the San Antonio Toll Party, believes tolls roads are used to manipulate traffic to increase revenue.

“Right now gas tax is $.20. They say we need a $.50 increase,” Hall said. “What type of roads do they want to build?”

Travis Weissler, YCT chairman, thinks the traffic and cost issues can be solved in other ways.

“Instead of an increase [in gas tax], we would like to see more accountability by TxDOT,” Weissler said. “They need greater accountability towards voters.”

Alda Morales, College Democrats president, doubts that toll roads will be constructed; but if they are, she feels students would use them if they are cheap enough.

“I don’t think students would be willing to pay more that $1.50 to $2.00 in order to use the toll roads,” Morales said.

She feels students’ time would be better spent concentrating on issues such as education in Texas.

With 30 years of experience in transportation, Smith questioned the reliability of the new San Antonio Texas Toll Party, which launched in 2005.

Hall doesn’t think experience matters.

“We don’t need experience in transportation, we are taxpayers,” Hall said. “They don’t think they are accountable to anyone.”

© 2006 The Paisano Online:


Sunday, November 05, 2006

"Texans need to vote."

Judging by previous elections, low turnout expected in Texas

Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Copyright 2006

Texas is synonymous with big.

It is bigger than many countries.

Sales of pickups are bigger here than anywhere else in the world.

But when it comes to all things big, Texas also has another more infamous distinction:

Texans aren't big on voting.

Texas ranks 49th in the percentage of women who vote. Men rank 48th. That's according to a recent study by the Institute for Women's Policy Research in Washington, D.C., based on 1998 midterm election and 2000 general election data.

Arizona nudges out Texas for the dubious honor of election day bottom feeder among women; Arizona and Nevada for men.

Even in the 2000 presidential election when, Texas Gov. George W. Bush defeated Vice President Al Gore, only 41.7 percent of Texas female registered voters went to the polls. Among men, the turnout was 39.4 percent.

And with the election only two days away, the prospects for a huge turnout are not encouraging, despite a four-way gubernatorial race and the fact that Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison's U.S. Senate seat and all 32 Texas seats in the U.S. House of Representatives are on the ballot.

Include the state House and Senate races and dozens of local contests and there would seem to be ample motivation for voters even in a nonpresidential election year. But according to the Texas Secretary of State's office, the last gubernatorial election in 2002 brought out only 36.2 percent of registered voters -- men and women. That's when Republicans Rick Perry and John Cornyn were elected as governor and U.S. Senator.

So, Houston, we have a problem. And for that matter, so do Fort Worth, Dallas, Lubbock, San Antonio, and hundreds of other municipalities, towns, suburbs and rural areas across the state.

"The obvious conclusion is that Texans aren't being offered choices that compel them to get off the couch to go vote," Democratic operative Kelly Fero said. "The mediocrity of talent on the ballot discourages turnout."

Republican strategist Reggie Bashur says that Texans simply don't view politics as relevant to their lives. "They see it as a specialty, an activity conducted by a select group," he said.

"Politics is a contest of ideas, differing views and approach to government," Bashur said. "By its nature there is conflict and competition, but the public for some reason doesn't understand it."

In fairness to Texans, Americans in many states get flunking grades when it comes to exercising their civic responsibility. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal said that during the last few decades, less than 40 percent of eligible voters in the U.S. cast ballots in midterm elections.

CNN recently released a poll showing that half of all Americans believe that most of the members of the U.S. House and Senate are corrupt. A majority of Americans also give thumbs down to the way Democrats and Republicans conduct business in Congress.

Glen Smith, a Democratic strategist, doesn't believe that means Americans are even necessarily apathetic.

"Apathy implies that people know better and don't care," he said. "I think people care, but our culture sends an enormous amount of messages that tells them that what they think doesn't matter."

That is one reason Texas Secretary of State Roger Williams often hears as he traverses the state during the campaign season in an effort to get out the vote.

"People say, 'My vote doesn't count, I don't like the candidates, and the issues don't affect me,'" he said. "They also say, 'I don't have the time.'

"We have 80 percent of eligible Texans registered. Now, we have to motivate them to vote."

When the women's policy research institute released its study, the Tarrant County chapter of the Texas League of Women Voters conducted a survey to determine why women stay home on election day. The reasons ranged from lack of information about the issues to being unaware of when elections occur, inconvenient voting locations and times, and no interest in politics.

But those are generic reasons that might be given by women in any state.

The overriding question, then, is what is peculiar to Texas that accounts for its low voter turnout?

Those interviewed offered several possible explanations:

Political culture. Whether it is the vestiges of the independent frontier spirit, as suggested by Boyd Ritchie, Texas Democratic Party chairman, or the Civil War issue of states' rights, many Texans just have a natural aversion to government.

A more diverse population. According to Amy Caiazza, director of democracy and society programs for the Women's Policy Research Institute, the states with "a higher level of ethnic and racial diversity have a lower turnout." Minority voters may feel that those in power really don't represent their interests.

"Instead of saying, 'I want to vote to change this,' they say, 'I'm not voting,'" Smith said.

One-party domination. Whether it is the Democrats, who once ruled Texas, or currently the Republicans, many races are viewed as a foregone conclusion, which keeps voters from both parties home. Democrats say redistricting in 2003 was a power play by Republicans to entrench themselves and ensure control over a majority of the state's congressional delegation. But Republicans didn't invent partisan politics. "My party has been guilty of that as well," Ritchie said. He adds it should not be "about protecting seats, but giving people a voice."

Virtual Texans. This a Sunbelt state attracting people from all around the country. "It takes newcomers a while to get familiar with local politics and faces," said Janet Imhoff, a vice president with the Texas League of Women Voters. "I would give it five years."

Whether these are valid reasons, or rationales and excuses, is almost irrelevant. The result is another tepid political campaign season with the candidates talking essentially to their base. "The concept of a centrist independent voter is a myth," Smith said.

What voters get is less substantive talk about issues and more rhetoric.

Invariably, that leads to more mud-slinging.

"There is a lot of negativity in the political environment," Bashur said. "The public is dismayed with what's going on in Washington and how it's affecting the environment here and elsewhere."

Ritchie says he is surprised that many voters don't see a difference between the major parties. For those trying to pay the bills, educate their children and keep a roof over their head, it doesn't much matter who is occupying the statehouse in Austin.

"We as parties -- Democrats and Republicans -- don't do as good a job as we should at having people look at those things," he said. "Philosophically, there's an astounding difference between the parties, but the idea and perception is that it doesn't matter."

Making registration easier and expanding early voting may increase turnout. Williams will also be looking at results from the super precinct concept in Lubbock, where 90 precincts have been reduced to 35, which will give voters more locations to cast ballots within their precinct and make voting more convenient.

Success will not be in who wins Tuesday, but how many voters cast a ballot.

"If we don't vote, then a minority truly takes over," Williams said. "Texans need to vote."

With apologies to David Letterman ...

Political pundits offer numerous reasons why Texans stay home en masse on Election Day. Here are some you might not have thought about:

Top 10 reasons why Texans don't vote:

10. They still have a hangover from Texas-O.U. weekend.

9.The pickup is in the shop.

8. No candidate is named Bubba.

7. They have tickets to a gun show in Abilene.

6. It is usually 70 degrees, and they don't own a winter coat.

5. There is a Walker, Texas Ranger marathon on cable.

4. They always fire up the barbecue on the first Tuesday in November.

3. The only ticket they'd endorse is Brooks and Dunn.

2. Don't there have to be two parties to have an election?

1. They heard it would be considered Kinky.

Low turnouts

The five states with the lowest turnout among men and women, according to a recent study by the Institute for Women's Policy Research in Washington, D.C. Based on an average of the 1998 midterm and 2000 presidential elections:

Men Pct.

Nevada 37.9

Arizona 39.1

Texas 39.4

Georgia 42.7

Calif. 42.6

U.S. avg. 47.3

Women Pct.

Arizona 41.4

Texas 41.7

Nevada 41.8

Georgia 43.7

Hawaii 43.9

U.S. avg. 49.3
Pete Alfano, 817-390-7985

© 2006 Fort Worth Star-Telegram:


"I always thought a hearse would haul me off this land. Not Rick Perry."

To corridor foes, it's city vs. farm


Roy Bragg
San Antonio Express-News
Copyright 2006

CORSICANA — Raindrops rolled off Jesse Mills' Resistol hat as he sat on the tailgate of his silver Ford pickup — parked on the Navarro County Courthouse square — armed with a battery of fliers, yard signs and campaign posters.

As voters made their way to the courthouse to cast early ballots, Mills politely made his case for a cobbled-together slate of candidates.

It's an unusual mix of parties. It's a bizarre mix of politics. And it's driven by one thing in common: a dislike for the Trans-Texas Corridor project.

Mills, 64, hasn't been politically active since he was a college student 40 years ago, but Gov. Rick Perry's plan for a statewide network of toll roads has turned the retired vocational school teacher into a political activist and a fixture on the town square.

He's not alone in his concern. Thousands of rural Texans have taken up rhetorical arms against the project. They see it as government betrayal and another example of a state turning its back on its agrarian tradition.

Under the current proposal, TTC-35 would split off from Interstate 35 just south of San Antonio. It would wrap around the southern edge of the city and then run parallel to the road as both make their way north to the Oklahoma state line.

A Texas Department of Transportation study released last week projected that in eight years, nearly 18 percent of the total traffic on I-35 between San Antonio and Austin could be diverted to TTC-35 and by 2030, this number could reach 24 percent.

Between Austin and Waco, TTC-35 would siphon off 15 percent of traffic by 2014 and 23 percent by 2030.

Between Waco and Dallas, those numbers would be 9 percent and 20 percent by 2014 and 2030, respectively.

Truck traffic, the bane of an I-35 driver's existence, would drop even more dramatically, according to TxDOT. By 2030, truck traffic diverted to TTC-35 could be as high as 36 percent, 25 percent and 26 percent for the San Antonio-to-Austin, Austin-to-Waco and Waco-to-Dallas segments, respectively.

Business and government leaders, while acknowledging the sacrifice of rural landowners in the path, tout the TTC as a plan to keep the state out of perpetual gridlock and keep the state's economy moving.

"The world is changing, and Texas is right in the middle of it," Temple Mayor Bill Jones III said. A lot of goods "will be moving through Texas, and a lot of it is going to stop here, too. We've got to be ready for it."

But for opponents such as Mills, the plan to pave thousands of acres of farmland has turned a normally quiet and conservative niche of Texans into a well-oiled activist machine.

In public, they meet, they rally, they network and they campaign. In the ether of the Internet, they exchange reports, maps and rumors.

And when they're alone, they cry and fret over their future.

In the two weeks before Tuesday's gubernatorial election, Mills has been fighting the controversial plan by campaigning for Carole Keeton Strayhorn, who opposes the plan, and against Perry, who has staked his political future on it.

Gubernatorial politics aside, the real goal is to stop the first leg of the Trans-Texas Corridor — a privately operated toll road called TTC-35 — before it leaves the drawing board.

If it's completed according to plans, the TTC will consist of a 4,000-mile network of new and existing highways and rail corridors, tied together and linking the state in the most efficient manner, according to the Texas Department of Transportation.

The preliminary price tag for the whole project — which would take a half-century to complete — is between $145 billion and $183 billion.

First up is TTC-35, a privately funded, 600-mile road intended to relieve congestion on Interstate 35, the state's most heavily traveled highway, which stretches from Laredo to the Oklahoma border.

Under the current proposal, TTC-35 would split off from I-35 just south of San Antonio. It would wrap around the southern edge of the city and then run parallel to the road as both make their way north to the Oklahoma border.

The road would be bankrolled, built and leased to a consortium led by Cintra of Spain and Zachry Construction Corp. of San Antonio as part of a 50-year deal. The state would acquire land via purchase and condemnation and own the whole project.

Plans for TTC-35 call for an $8.8 billion construction effort that would, when maxed out, rival any road project anywhere: six car lanes, four truck lanes, freight and high-speed passenger rail, and utility rights of way stretched across a quarter-mile swath.

A wide divide

Some fear that the highway, with limited access to facilitate high speeds, will split the state in two, with little or no access for locals.

A lot of the specifics of the plan, however, remain undecided, state highway officials say, including the toll schedule, the location of exit and entry ramps, the highway's speed limit, and the location of underpasses and overpasses.

It's the audacity of the plan — as well as fear of the unknown — that has stirred up most of the anger. Not since the failed plans for the Superconducting Super-Collider and the Texas High Speed Rail Project of the early 1990s has there been this level of grass-roots rebellion in rural Texas.

To most rural residents in the way of TTC-35, the issue is about more than a highway. It's about a lack of respect for Texas' rural roots. It's city vs. farm.

And, more insidious, it's about bureaucrats putting the tantalizing taste of global economic returns ahead of working Americans.

"Why should I take a step backward to help NAFTA?" asked Melvin Krahn, 69, a farmer near La Vernia, referring to the North American Free Trade Agreement. "Let's bring jobs back to Texas. Don't take my land to help NAFTA."

Residents see a dim future for them in a world with TTC-35.

"The life we've taken for granted for years is going to change," said Ralph Snyder, owner of a salvage yard in the Central Texas town of Holland, about 10 miles south of Temple and near the projected route.

"That's progress. Rural people aren't against progress. They realize there's a need for transportation.

"But is this the right thing to do?" Snyder asked. "We haven't had the necessary studies. The first handful of dirt hasn't been turned and won't be turned for years, and there are already angry people."

"They're going to just take land that's been in families — for five generations, in some cases — and give it to a foreign company with a 50-year lease," he said. "They're thinking with their billfold. They're not thinking like Texans."

Ronnie White, mayor of nearby Little River-Academy, agrees. The town sits at the headwaters of the Little River. Its 1,600 residents live minutes away from river bottom land where cattle graze and families have spent countless hours camping and fishing.

"We love it like it is," White said. "It doesn't matter if it's a big economic boost to the state. It doesn't matter if you get rich or not. It's all about the type of life that you lead. "

While the planned route for the corridor cuts a wide swath through farmland, it goes right through the middle of White's tiny town. The most recent maps show an underpass on FM 436, but White isn't sold on the notion that it will be built.

"I don't know what to believe anymore."

There are similar concerns in St. Hedwig, which sits on the Bexar-Wilson county line, due east of San Antonio.

A bedroom community of 1,800, St. Hedwig has fought hard to keep its rustic feel. Local ordinance requires large tracts of land for each home, said Mayor Mary Jo Dylla, and dissuades smaller subdivision lots.

"We're consciously making an effort," she said, "to keep this as a rural community. We live in the country. We like it here. I've got to drive 20-25 miles to go to anything. That's a price I'm willing to pay."

And now, along comes TTC-35. According to the latest maps, the toll road runs through the middle of town.

"You've got this side of my city," said Dylla, pointing at a map of the town on the wall of City Council chambers, "and you've got this side of my town."

City Hall and the city's access to ambulance service are on one side of town. The Volunteer Fire Department is on the other side of town. There is to be an underpass or overpass allowing a single road to connect the two halves of the town.

There won't be an exit or access ramp for St. Hedwig, meaning the city can expect noise and exhaust fumes around the clock, she said, but no chance for local merchants and service providers to cash in.

"We're not going to have any economic opportunity," she said. "Our little restaurant that struggles to stay open isn't going to benefit from it.

"They just come in," the mayor said, "and tell you, 'Sorry, we need your land for a road that's not going to benefit you or your community, but we're going to do it anyway.'

"There's no upside to it."

Snyder, the Holland salvage owner, said the impact on existing infrastructure could cause economic devastation.

Hundreds of county roads used by emergency vehicles and school buses across the state will dead end at the toll road, which won't have an accompanying access road.

Power lines crossing the highway will need to be re-routed and raised to allow clearance for the double-decked trucks that will be daily fixtures. Water lines will have to go deeper to create separation from oil and gas lines running in TTC-35's utility corridor.

New traffic problems

Existing roads, critics say, also will be devastated.

Traffic will be forced onto a smaller pool of roads that cross over or under the toll road, farmer Robert Fleming said. The few roads allowed to cross TTC-35 will be crowded and heavily traveled.

"The traffic on our roads, while we're trying to get our kids to school, or people are trying to get to work, or trying to move farm equipment, will be more than these roads can handle," said Fleming, whose agricultural operation stretches across 20 farms that he owns or leases near Troy, between Waco and Temple.

His farm equipment — some of which is 50 to 100 feet wide — doesn't travel well and won't hold up to repeated trips to work on farmland that's been split in two by TTC-35.

The highway also threatens to disrupt the Blackland Prairie ecosystem of Central Texas, Fleming said.

The land is rare — it doesn't require irrigation and rarely requires fertilizer. But TTC-35 will remove thousands of acres from cultivation.

Adjacent land will be rendered useless because of noise and runoff. And without freeway access, it cannot be salvaged for commercial development.

Beyond the ecosystem, the toll road also threatens the fragile farm economy, Fleming said.

TTC-35 will split some farms and swallow others. Parcels of land that are cut off from the bulk of a farm, Fleming argued, will immediately decrease in value.

Farmers operating adjacent to the orphaned land will be able to buy it for pennies on the dollar, while the original owner takes a financial beating.

"To maintain our income," he said, "we need to maintain our acreage. We need a better price for our product, or we need to produce and sell more of it. We get that with more acreage."

There's a danger of cultural damage, too. The stress of land acquisition will be too much for some people.

"What's the family going to do when easement people come by the house?" he asked. "What's going to be going on with mom and dad and the kids?"

Farmland is more than an investment, rural residents say. In many cases, it goes hand-in-hand with a family's history.

"You can point to something," Fleming said, "and say, 'Daddy built that' or 'Granddaddy built that.'"

Sometimes, the looming threat of TTC-35 is too much for residents who fear their lives will be destroyed by it.

"I'm a third-generation German American," La Vernia's Krahn said, unable to hold back tears. "My wife is the fourth generation of her family to live on this land. I'm a veteran. I served my country. And they're going do this to me?"

Even residents who claim to have an open mind about the project are wary of what it will do to their way of life.

"In the long run, it'll probably be for the best," said Dutch Strzelczyk, a bar owner in St. Hedwig. "But it's going to dilute this community."

While fear of change remains Topic A along the path of TTC-35, hatred of Gov. Perry runs a close second in the rolling hills and black prairies along the planned corridor.

"How can they say this is benefiting this community?" Krahn said. "I don't know how Rick Perry sleeps at night."

"Rick Perry used to own this place," said Snyder, of Holland. "Not anymore."

"I voted for him before," said Dylla, St. Hedwig's mayor. "Not this time. He's let us down."

Open up bottlenecks

Proponents of the route, while sympathetic to landowners' concerns, say the Texas leaders and residents have to make tough decisions to ensure the Lone Star State's quality of life.
"We're going to add another 6 million Texans in the next decade," said Bill Hammond of the Texas Association of Business & Chambers of Commerce. "We need the infrastructure here."

Global trade depends on the project.

"The chokepoint between Mexico and Canada is the Colorado River," he said, referring to the around-the-clock bottleneck as I-35 passes through Austin. "We need this to keep this state moving."

"I understand that this is uniquely hard for rural communities through which it will pass," said Joe Krier, president of the Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce and chairman of Texans for Safe Reliable Transportation, a business group created to tout the benefits of the plan.

"But we know for a fact that, in this state, a rising tide lifts all boats," Krier said. "Sure, the state's total economy is disproportionately driven by the urban areas, but when the big cities are doing great, the smaller cities are doing well, too."

As Texas competes in the global economy, Krier said, transportation will be vital.

"If we're going to compete, not just as a state, but globally, we've got to continue to provide job opportunities," he said. "We've got to provide ways for businesses to get their products to and from customers as fast as possible and at a competitive speed."

Critics say TTC-35 is not the panacea for gridlock in the state's urban areas, nor will it relieve the traffic problems projected when the state's population doubles by 2050.

Krier agreed that TTC-35, by itself, isn't the answer.

"TTC-35 is part of a much bigger picture," he said. "Regional mobility authorities are proposing their own network of highways, and in many cases, their own tollways.

"The Trans-Texas Corridor is primarily designed to move traffic across the state in an efficient, safe and competitive way. These two sets of roads are separate but, in many ways, interdependent."

Critics say the state hasn't exhausted all of the possibilities for making I-35 work. But expanding that highway isn't feasible, said Jones, the Temple mayor.

"There's no more expansion of I-35," he said, "without going into major expenditures of capital to buy land and businesses, and that's not practical."

That freeway model calls for access roads, which allow local use of the highway and create commercial real estate. Critics of TTC-35 complain that it won't generate the same opportunities.

But the goal of TTC-35 is different, Jones said. Instead of causing spikes in local economies, its purpose is to eliminate bottlenecks.

"It's a different model," Jones said, "than the interstate highway system we have in Texas."

Like Krier, Jones understands the anger of farmers.

"I don't have an answer for them," he said. The new highway, however, is inevitable. "It's going to happen to someone, somewhere along the line, regardless of what is done. It's either going to be commercial land or farmland. It's cheaper and easier to build this way."

Jones thinks the rancor will ultimately subside.

"We appear to pick sides and fight over this," he said, "but in the end, it'll be the best system we can get. We're all Texans, and we've got to figure out how to make this work."

That optimism means little to Krahn, the Wilson County farmer.

"I always thought a hearse would haul me off this land. Not Rick Perry."

© 2006 San Antonio Express-News: